Jordin Tootoo heads home to host big Kivalliq hockey camp
“The main thing is just having fun with the kids”
The recreation coordinator for the Hamlet of Rankin Inlet, David Clark, hopes the National Hockey League lockout doesn’t end any time soon.
“I’m crossing my fingers for the first time in two months that they don’t go back to hockey just yet,” Clark said.
That’s because Clark and the Hamlet of Rankin Inlet know that Jordin Tootoo, Nunavut’s most-loved hockey player, will soon travel to the Kivalliq region town to host the first Team Tootoo Hockey Camp Dec. 14 to Dec. 16.
But if the lockout ends, Tootoo will have to fly down to Detroit to start training camp within 48 hours.
That would put the Tootoo Hockey Camp in jeopardy.
But with talks between players and owners over league revenues in the NHL labour dispute breaking down this week, it likely that Clark will get his wish.
More than 130 kids have already signed up for the camp, Clark said.
And there are also kids travelling to Rankin from other communities to get a chance to share some ice time with Tootoo.
Clark said this camp has been a long time coming, but with Tootoo’s NHL commitments and the hamlet’s arena not being filled with ice until early October — when the NHL season would have started — it hasn’t been possible until now.
“It’s a unique circumstance this year with Jordin obviously being locked out in the NHL, and our facility not being able to have ice until early October. It’s just kind of worked out, in a way,” Clark said.
While he’s there, Tootoo will speak to schools and visit family members, having grown up in the community of about 2,500 people.
The camp, which will receive funding from the Government of Nunavut, Tootoo’s charity foundation, the Team Tootoo Fund, and the hamlet, is all about having a good time.
“The main thing is just having fun with the kids, getting them to enjoy themselves — it’s just going to be a fun weekend for everybody,” Clark said.
There will be coaching clinics for novice, bantam, midget and girls, and Tootoo will also talk to kids one-on-one, and in groups.
“It’s going to be a really positive atmosphere. You’re going to learn hockey skills, but you’re also going to learn life skills and teamwork,” he said.
And there will be a senior game where Tootoo and his childhood pal Troy Aksalnik, will pick teams from the wealth of amateur hockey players in Rankin, and go head-to-head inside an expectedly packed arena.
Clark has been a good friend of Tootoo’s since grade school, or “when I was just a young little punk,” he says.
And although it’s nice to see Tootoo at a time when he wouldn’t necessarily get a chance to see him, the next time Clark sees Tootoo after the camp, he wants him to bring the Stanley Cup with him.
“I’ve always dreamed of him coming home, and I know he has too, and standing on top of the inuksuk with the Stanley Cup. I know he’s thought about it, and we’ve talked about it for many years,” he said.
Now that’s looking more likely, with Tootoo signing a three-year, $5.7 million contract with the perennial cup contenders, the Detroit Red Wings.
“A lot of people in Rankin were Detroit fans even before he went there. So we have even more Detroit fans,” Clark said.